Bob Cratchit/Merchant #2 - ALEXANDER L HILL
Charity Worker#1/Belle/Wives - MELISA BREINER-SANDERS
Charity Worker#2/Fezzi/Others - DOUGLAS B GIORGIS
Fanny/Tiny Tim/Other Dainties - CAITLYN ELESE WILLIAMS
Fred/Ebenezer/Pawnbroker - HUNTER GILMORE
Marley/Narrator/Xmas Yet to Be - MARC GELLER
Mrs Cratchit/Widow/Charwoman - SHARON HUNTER
Scrooge - JAN-PETER PEDROSS
Xmas Past/Poulterer - DEVON TALBOTT
Xmas Present/Dick/Tenant - JONATHAN HINMAN
I am also planning R&J auditions for this weekend. Gender neutral casting for all you ladies wanting to play some bad ass roles... Interested? Let me know!
I am really starting to feel the crunch for R&J. I was supposed to have my first round of auditions YESTERDAY. Obviously that didn’t happen. I just finished working on the play yesterday. It turns out that it has to be a cast of 17 – and I can’t double any more than that because they are pretty much all in the same scene! It’s going to be a beast. (Followed of course by another beast that I haven’t even STARTED working on…) But I’m putting up my audition notice today! So baby steps.
I had a great conversation with my costume designer yesterday. It’s such a different experience than designing with Allen. i.e. we don’t yell at each other. This is not at all to say that I don’t enjoy the experience of screaming at Allen creatively and personally satisfying, but its nice to have a calm jam session as well. She has great ideas, and she seems very receptive to the direction I want to take it. I appreciate her insight, and can’t wait to see the direction she wants to take it. It is a very hard piece in the regard that we are dealing with a world that everyone knows pretty intimately, and we have to bring it a completely new life. We talked about bringing in the silhouettes of the world of Ayn Rand, and the time of booming capitalism, and polarizing that with the Dickensian Christmas Carol that everyone knows. The further one goes towards glorifying capitalism, the closer to the 20th century their clothing becomes. I also told her that I want very off-putting ghosts. I don’t want them to invoke a large sense of empathy as they do traditionally. We are making Scrooge the hero of this world.
Callbacks for Scrooge were yesterday. There are a few missed auditions, due to some last minute miscommunications, but the puzzle pieces fit together in the end. The scary thing is that it is a bit of a house of cards…if one person doesn’t accept, then we can’t cast the other because they come as a couple. But I think already the big question marks have accepted, so we are well on our way. A lot of the cast also seems very excited about the re-imagining of the show and will work very hard to make it really coalesce. I am also excited to have my friend John Crotty keeping me organized as the Stage Manager. As soon as I can I will announce the cast.
I saw Paranormal Activity yesterday – don’t. I’m a disciple of the school of thought that what you see is definitely scarier than what you don’t see. In theory this meets the formula. But as I said on my facebook, if you are pulled from your room by an unseen force, you need to leave that house until you can get someone to help you get the scary demon out of your house. If you decide to continue to stay in your house, then you have no one to blame but yourself if the demon possesses you.
On another note, I saw the Mystery Plays at the Secret Theatre. They on the other hand were thought provoking, slightly eerie, and extraordinarily well done. Well conceived, designed, directed, and acted. I myself would like to work on something by the writer, and would be happy to see more from director Jeff Crosley. Thank you for an enjoyable night of theater.
So this is actually the blog I intended to write yesterday, but I got so heated about the audition thing that I figured that I should probably separate the two out, especially when you see the completely different tone that this one has. WARNING! This one’s really artsy and touchy-feeley. If you puke in your mouth, you’ve been warned.
It’s really fun to see people’s reactions to the version of Scrooge that I am directing. Some people are intrigued, some people actually make disgusted faces (clearly they are loyal to the traditional story – well fine! No callback for them!) and some people are incredibly excited, and completely love and accept the idea – citing that they too are libertarian or objectivist. One was even about to send in his reel for the latest attempt to make a movie of Atlas Shrugged. (Which is actually one of my favorite books, even though I don’t really necessarily agree with objectivism – what I appreciate is the philosophy of doing work because that is what we are here to do, versus working for gain and crawling over the backs of others. But as usual, I digress.)
One of the key things I find myself saying when explaining this to the actors when I’m giving them adjustments is that Scrooge is not a bad man, in fact in this version of A Christmas Carol you could consider him a champion. The difference is that his moral compass points to a different North – one where you are bound by your word, one where you work for what you are due, and you expect that others do the same. As Ayn Rand says, “no man can have a right to impose an unchosen obligation, an unrewarded duty or an involuntary servitude on another man.” In other words, Scrooge will not give another anything which he is not due. To do so would be a disservice to both parties.
The playwright has done such a wonderful job invoking pathos for Scrooge. She did this by adding a few scenes that are not in the book, but could very well have happened. What this does is set up additional given circumstances for Scrooge, and really makes his code of ethics clear. Even in the traditional Christmas Carol, these scenes could still be applicable. We never really know why Belle leaves him. So maybe he shies away from personal relationships because he has a broken heart. Scrooge “hoards” his money. His father was broke and he was apprenticed from a very young age. Perhaps he was looking for security and a sense of personal value that he has linked to fiscal success. These are just a few examples.
It is said that as an actor you can never hate you character. Quite the contrary, you must find a way to love them and justify every action that as the character you make. Explaining Scrooge’s “moral compass” (over and over again) got me thinking a little allegorically. I read recently in a book – “no one does anything wrong given their model of the world.” When you understand Scrooge’s “model of the world”, it becomes increasingly clear that though you may disagree with his point of view, you certainly can’t hate him for it, he’s only acting in the way that his entire life has showed him was the proper way to live. Looking at him in a different way changes the perspective of him being the villain to him being the hero. Maybe we need to look at each other a little bit more like that. Recognizing that people see the world completely differently and that’s why they behave differently, and do things that are “wrong.” Maybe to them it’s not bad at all. We certainly shouldn’t hate them for it. I think this is true on any scale, macro or micro. A master would love the man who cut him off in traffic, or was rude to him on the phone. Maybe the man was in a rush to get to work or he’d lose his job, or he just found out his wife had cancer. We don’t know that man’s given circumstances, model of the world, whatever you want to call it. A master would love the very man who killed him. I can’t say that I’m at that place, but allowing myself to explore this man that Mrs. Crachit calls “odious” has given me a new empathy. I think we could all stand to do this a little more in our lives. This is another wonderful example of how art could help change the world – if we’d only let it.
First night of God Bless You Mr. Scrooge auditions. All in all, not too bad. We had some good auditions, and I’m pretty confident about a few roles – a little nervous about others. But we have another night tonight, I have some creative ideas to get around some potential obstacles, and even if we don’t find anyone, there’s still time for another round if need be. I’m optimistic. Janet continues to impress me with her collaborative attitude blended with her dedication to get the work done.
As usual, many people didn’t respond to our reaching out for an audition, and many people did but then didn’t show up. I find this bizarre. I write your names down sucka! I keep a record! It doesn’t really matter. I haven’t seen your work yet, so I can’t be disappointed (unless in the case of last night you were the only one coming in to audition for a particular role, or if you were auditioning for Scrooge.) and we weren’t overflowing with people, so all you did is leave an awkward gap that we have to sit through while we could have gone home earlier. That actually didn’t happen last night, we timed it pretty perfectly – between people not showing up and me taking a little extra time with each person. But in general, why would you take the time to make the commitment, and then just not show up? It’s one thing to cancel, but to just not show up? In opera, singers PAY to audition! Don’t see any of them skipping out. Maybe that’s what we have to start doing in theater… that way we know if someone REALLY wants the part – do you want it enough to pay to audition for it?
Then there are the people who come in and are surprised that you asked them for a monologue. Do you really not have one? ONE? As an actor, auditioning is your business! I am a firm believer that every actor should have between 5 and 10 monologues they should be able to whip out if ever a director (like me) says “hmm…can I see something else?” Its shocking how many people say no. Would you walk into a job interview without a resume? This is an interview. Bring your resume, and headshot! Would you go into a job interview not knowing what you are interviewing for and having some of the questions you know they’re gonna ask already answered in your head? Well I’m going to ask you for a monologue!
Here’s where I plug – come work on your monologues with me! I have very competitive rates ;) Because I have to say that for those of you who DO have monologues, many of them are bad. Not necessarily because you are bad actors, but because you have picked flat-line material. It needs to be active. You need to NEED something. “I’m telling a story” should never be your monologue choice unless you’re really gonna go there in the story.
But I think this is the most important thing, and I think I’ve said this before – but I’m serious, it needs to be repeated. The best monologues are the ones where the audience can’t only tell what you’re doing, but they can tell what the person you’re talking to is doing! Just because they don’t have any lines doesn’t mean they’re not saying anything! People breeze through the monologues, even though some of the lines are in direct response to their “scene partner” Look at me, no look at me! I’m serious! becomes lookatmenolookatmeimserious. Good for you, you’ve finished the monologue, but I have NO idea what you’re talking about. It becomes a Guffman monologue. I have to bite my lip.
In closing, if you make the confirmation to come to an audition:
1)actually show up!
3)do the work!!!
*Need help? I have very competitive rates ;)
There are only a few projects that I choose to work on where I am not the director. I was at one of these projects yesterday, and the director happened not to be there so we had a someone step in for the day. The day really angered me. The person filling in was trying to do the best they could – asking maybe for some different things that the normal director did. However, the other members of the cast saw this as an opportunity to flex their own directing muscles – to the embarrassment of the person in charge. The cast spent much time challenging and second guessing in front of everyone else. It is one thing to ask a question for clarification – it is quite another to ask a question to prove that you know more than the person in charge. You aren’t in charge – deal with it. Direct your own show. But by entering the room you have tacitly agreed to follow and collaborate together, and as a professional you need to behave as such.
On another note, last night, Allen came into town. With much turmoil and drinks (how we always work…) we came up with out concept for Romeo and Juliet… which I can now officially announce. I’m not quite ready to reveal the concept yet, but I will say its predominantly gender neutral – which may make some actresses looking to play some badass roles pretty excited. We then proceeded to lay the groundwork for two other projects that we are working on together – the one, Scrooge (which we actually got a bit more finalized actually) and then the beginnings of Xerxes. He got pretty drunk. All in all a pretty successful evening.
We had a Queens Players meeting tonight. It was our first meeting in the new space, it seems to really be coming along. All the shows seem to be making great progress as well. Of course I announced R&J at the meeting… but I’m sure there will be far more to tell as the weeks go by.
I had a busy day on Friday. I had my first monologue coaching session. It is with someone I had worked on a number of shows with, and she was working on a showcase monologue. It was a lot of fun and I think after an hour we made enormous progress. Every time I work on a monologue, it reaffirms that the most important thing for an actor to do is to be VERY SPECIFIC about what their “scene partner” is doing. Every monologue is a scene, and the best ones allow me to see both sides of the scene. But its harder than it looks.
I went then right over to the Pocket Opera Meet and Greet. It was a lot of fun. I got to talk with some of my cast and the opera singers. I think we’re going to have a great process. Everyone seems very eager. Its very funny, the opera singers are as boggled by the theatrical process as I am by the opera process. I’m hoping that will allow for everyone to learn a lot from each other… as long as everyone keeps an open mind. But, after talking with the producers, I think this is going to be a lot closer of a process to what I’m used to than I originally thought. I think we are already beginning to have a nice working relationship (the wine helped), they seem to have a lot of faith in me. Of course I am going to do my best to live I’m hoping that especially if Xerxes goes well (which of course it will!) this will lead to many more opportunities.
That is what I title a lot of my work e-mails. But its true, I have some very fragmented things to say:
We’ve set a date for the auditions for Scrooge. I’m excited. I think its going to be a fun process, and I really like the space.
T+2 since my boss left. I’m still pretty busy. I think it will slow down, but its definitely been a bit initial push. I have to keep working for myself though – I’m moving toward something good.
I was looking at some friends’ websites the other day, and I kept thinking – “I’m not sure what you’re marketing here. Are you an artist, a singer, an actor, an all-in all philanthropist? Is this a merely personal endeavor a sort of getting your words out into the cyberverse kind of thing, or are you really targeting someone.” I then went back to my website and realized that I didn’t even say that I was a director in my mission statement. Whoops. If you scroll back to that page you will now see that I am, in fact, a director. But otherwise, I think I make it clear what I’m selling, with that attractive man in those photos… but please, I invite you to correct me if I’m wrong. I guess I’m getting a little interactive. Please let me know what is and isn’t clear and what I can make even clearer about what it is that I am in the context of being an artist. (Save the personal stuff – which would be a much longer list for the personal e-mail.)
I had another conversation regarding Wrapped. They have decided to deny me right of first refusal after speaking with their lawyer. Of course, they are only looking out for their best interests. But I have to ask, what about my best interests? I don’t want to work on this show (I already have quite a bit) only to be supplanted if it gets bigger with no financial compensation. We agreed that after the reading (looking to be in the end of January) we can discuss it again. I told them with every bit of work I will get more insistent. But for now I agreed to continue with them. Since I’ve already asked for your feedback – what do you think about that?
I found myself last night the kind of exhausted you get – not from running around and having something to do every night without a chance to rest, but the kind of exhausted you get after someone dies, or a break-up or an accident. Luckily none of these were the case, but I most definitely found myself that kind of tired. That emotionally tired. I felt like the sea dragon at one of those amusement fairs. In the past three days I have said goodbye to my boss, which is upsetting on a professional and personal level, been the emcee at a wedding of good friends of mine, and spent most of my other waking hours at a hospital. The first five of those hours in the emergency room. For those of you who have never done this, a lot happens in a crowded emergency room in five hours. It seems to me that either directly or indirectly I wound up with a pretty comprehensive sampling of the yo-yo that his the human existence. Walking through the hallways of this crowded hospital (ask your congressman to fight for additional funding!) it became all the more apparent to me why art is so important. These are the stories we tell – the births, the deaths, the marriages, the accidents, the sicknesses, the goodbyes, the hellos, the tripping on the banana peel that makes life what it is.
I was slightly inaccurate before in my back story. This chain of events all actually started on Wednesday night when I was listening to someone talk about “bearing with” someone. This was in a religious context, and the idea that bearing with someone was that you were “bearing their cross”, that you were lightening their burden so they could stand up again, and that’s really what it meant to minister. I think fundamentally I agree. But this sermon also reminded me of a phrase that a college professor of mine used to say which really struck a chord with me – the idea of bearing witness. A slight modification in verbiage, and I think it makes it more relatable to what I do, yet in effect it means the same thing. Bearing _______ (you decide which) is allowing someone(s) to be whatever it is they’re being (getting married, dying – both of which I saw this weekend), and to let them show you who they really really are - and you can really see them, and allow them to see themselves in you. It’s so vulnerable for everyone (how often have you simply just broken eye contact because its too uncomfortable?), but it is I think the most powerful thing we can do for a person. Give them the gift of seeing themselves through you. And I don’t think it’s a one-way street. Really seeing someone creates such a powerful empathy. You cannot do but see yourself in them. So just by being truly present with another person, you have exchanged something that cannot be described as anything but holy. And the calling of an artist in my way of thinking the calling of one who seeks to give that to others, to tell those stories. Even a single image can do that - they say a picture tells a thousand words, so I’d argue that an artist and a storyteller are the same thing. And give that gift on purpose! You and I agree to come to this place together at the appointed time, and if we are both willing enough – we will give something irreplaceable to each other. Giving one another the gift of ourselves. That is a noble calling indeed.
We had a BTW meeting yesterday. There was a little discussion about the pace at which we were moving. It’s funny, it seems to all of us so strange and slightly unnerving that we are taking our time with this piece, setting no concrete deadlines. It’s almost as if we feel even more pressured to get it done, because if it doesn’t we have nothing to blame except our own laziness. I know that it has actually made me far more productive. I am actually setting slightly stricter deadlines. We’ll see once all the productions hit in full force how long that will stick… but other than that we had some good discussion about next steps, and I have an invitation letter to write for playwrights that we would like to come to our next two events. I also am interested in joining a networking group that Carl is currently in. I wonder if it has a place for directors? Some of these groups are pretty exclusively actors, so who knows?
So it’s official, I am directing Romeo and Juliet with the Queens Players. The concept is still a little up in the air, (Allen and I were fighting about it last night – so needless to say it’s well on it’s way.) but it will most certainly be a far cry from Antigone or As You Like It. I’m thinking (without giving too much away - I'll give you more when its a bit more hammered out) something maybe with a slightly more Eastern hemisphere feel. It is going to be in the new space, about which I am very excited. I have no idea how I’ll fit it in between Scrooge (which is still moving along pre-production very nicely) and Opera (for which I still do not have a score! But I’ve been calling around and hoping for the best…) but at the moment December is clear, and I can’t as of now go away, so hopefully that will give me just enough time to pull off something fantastic.
That’s really all artistically I care to say at the moment. So while I have a second, looking back at my other blogs, as well as my writings over my life, I’d just like to comment a little on my own writing style. I use a lot of dashes - commas, run on sentences (and an awful lot of parenthesis and elipses…)...in case you haven't noticed. Ok, I overdid it just a bit on purpose. Anyway, to anyone who has an extensive English background this must be kind of obnoxious. But when I write, I hear myself speaking in my head, and simply type it out. With these often superfluous bits of punctuation I try to mimic my speaking style. Maybe I should be a speech writer – at the very least I suppose I should write my own speeches. (Keep that in mind for when I win a Tony!) So for those of you that know me personally, just imagine these blogs as a monologue, of course, acted out with perfection by me. For those of you who don’t know me (if any strangers are actually reading my blog), just observe the exaggerated punctuation and use that as insight as what to expect when you finally meet me…and don’t worry, we will meet.